This post should arrive on Christmas morning! (assuming you are reading somewhere close by!) So, for today, no great insights to share with you… just a simple message to say “thank you” for following along with me and my adventures! Enjoy the beauty of the season, and may you truly sense God’s presence today as we celebrate His gift to us !
The days are getting colder here in Canada. Soon the fluffy, white snowflakes will begin to swirl in the skies above and it’ll be time to cozy up indoors with a good book and my coveted cup of coffee. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has come way too soon for me… we just pulled out all the Christmas decorations this past weekend! I have a few favourite ones in my stash. All of them are angels. One is a teeny wooden one, given to me by a dear friend in memory of a special little baby. I safely tuck it away every year and cry a new batch of tears when I pull it out again as the memories flood over me. Another is a primitive little crafted thing,with a toilet paper roll for a body and some lace tucked in for a skirt. It was supposed to be “faceless” … but my kids secretly drew a magic-markered-happy-face smile on it because they didn’t think it looked right without features. The final favourite is a beautiful figurine, decked out in eyelet lace with feathery wings and a delicate, china face. I bought it when we were first married at a country fair. There were rumours the vendor was a witch, and perhaps I shouldn’t buy from her, but I didn’t care… it was (and still is!) so pretty. If I had an unlimited budget and didn’t have to dust, my house would be filled with Victorian angels decked out in fine royal purples and regal reds. They are one of my favourite things at Christmas.
Yet, I wonder if my concept of angels is wrong. Have I some how twisted my view of these very special messengers of God? Created to serve Him faithfully forever? Recent polls suggest that a large percentage of North Americans, no matter what their religious backgrounds, have a belief in angels or heavenly beings. Are they truly the chubby, naked little cherubs we imagine all decked out with harps and bows and arrows? Or the Christmas tree toppers adorned with gold ribbons and flowing gowns of crimson? Perhaps we are too casual with our angelic references: “Thanks so much…you’re such an angel for bringing me that… Oh, what a darling, little angel she is…” When the Bible refers to angels, humans tended to bow down in absolute fear (Gen.19:1, Luke 1). Even the Christmas angels who brought the good news to the shepherds caused them to be “terrified”. These heavenly hosts were definitely not the adorable 5-year-olds with make shift tinsel halos hailing “Fear not” in the Children’s Christmas pageant.
That being said, I am thankful that these messengers of God are still so very present in our lives. I have heard countless stories of missionaries narrowly escaping death because “strange groups of men” seemed to be protecting them. I am confident that my children have been protected from harm on more than one occasion because of the prayers of believers around them. Those prayers have sent angels to fight the spiritual battles we all face every day in this fallen world. I am comforted that God still sends His heralds to remind me, like Mary and the shepherds, “not to be afraid”. He has messengers of the good news all around us. We just have to search them out.
The angelic creatures described in the book of Revelation should be an indication to me that God Almighty is in control of all, and that one day the battle will be won. The flaming, sword bearing protectors will vanquish evil on Christ’s behalf and we will enter His gates with thanksgiving and joy.
Can you imagine what it will be like to join voices with the heavenly choir of seraphims and cherubims and cry “Holy, Holy, Holy to the Lord God Almighty”?! Oh, my friend, it is no wonder we admire these creatures who were made for the infinite purpose of praising the One who saves us.
This season, as I pullout my tissue wrapped treasures, and top my tree with the guardians of Heaven, I will be encouraged that “… we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28,29 NIV)
And when the swirling flakes arrive, and the busyness of the season preoccupies my time, and I am flustered with all the preparations that need to be done, I pray that I will be able to look at that magic marker smile of the “toilet paper roll angel” sitting on the shelf, and be reminded to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1,2 NIV)
I hate waiting. I hate waiting in line, I hate waiting for my food to be cooked, I hate waiting for the kids to get out of school. I just don’t like sitting around with nothing to do when something else should be happening. I bring books or snacks or my phone or a crochet project on long car rides because my hands need to be doing something (or else I crash into a nap… which is a whole other story).
So, when I discovered that the real meaning of Advent was anticipatory waiting… I wasn’t too keen. I don’t think many of us are good at waiting. Have you noticed that radio stations are playing Christmas music already?! The stores have been in Christmas mode since the day after Halloween! The marketers out there certainly don’t like waiting! They want us to be spending our dough faster and faster these days… no waiting! Order now! Direct ship! Buy online! Available 24 hours, seven days a week!
Let’s step back for a minute. In case you are not familiar with the term “advent”… it is a traditional practice of the Christian church to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and then, in turn, His final return to earth. Similar to the practice of Lent before Easter, it gives us a chance to slow down, to think and ponder, and to hope for the future. It’s something I have to work on… this waiting.
My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars. The ones with the little doors you would open every day from December first until the 25th. Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant… I simply enjoyed the treats everyday! Later, we began to celebrate the four Sundays of advent at our church. It was then, that I understood the symbolism, the tradition, and the true meaning of the practice. It is something I have come to cherish as an adult. It’s a discipline that that reminds me to slow down, to appreciate my family, to encourage my church family, and to rejoice in the season — and not to be so caught up in the rush of the “stuff”. It forces me to focus each week on learning to wait. To anticipate. To revel in the beauty of hope.
Here’s what I have learned about the traditional advent symbolism: it begins with an evergreen wreath… the symbol of a circle of eternity. Our Christ is timeless. He’s been around much longer than the babe in the manger. Surrounding the wreath are four candles and one central candle. Each candle is lit on the four Sundays of Advent, and culminate with the lighting of the white, central candle, which is lit on Christmas eve. This central candle is sometimes referred to as the Christ candle… and represents His purity and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.
The first candle is purple. It represents “hope” and the prophecies that Isaiah spoke about when He described the coming of our special Christmas baby. The second purple candle represents love, and is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem candle or the manger candle. So much love happened in that lowly stable…. I imagine my own beloveds and how the whole world fell away the moment they were born and I saw them for the first time face to face. Can you imagine Mary’s first glance at her special baby? Yup, love for sure. The next candle is pink… and represents joy. It is the shepherd’s candle. It embodies the joy and celebration the shepherds must have felt when they were given the good news that a Saviour had been born! The last candle is also purple and reminds us to be peaceful. This “angel” candle points us to worship, to reflection, and to remember that the season is not about gifts under a tree, but the ultimate gift given to us. The One the angels were made for… simply to worship for eternity.
So… as you prepare for your Christmas season, and you rush out here and there, be reminded of the advent tradition of waiting. Take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Christ’s coming. Anticipate through hope, love, joy and peace, and the pure and holy sacrifice that Christ paid for you. May you be blessed, my beloveds, as we journey towards the holidays together. Take time to rejoice in waiting. Oh… it shall be no easy task! Especially if there are Christmas cookies in the oven! But we can practice it together, shall we?
Want to learn more about Advent? Check out my Pinterest Boards for more ideas on DIY calendars, symbols, studies and more!